ARIZONA 7, ST. JOHN’S 4
Arizona’s baseball team moved to a new ballpark this season, moving off campus to Hi Corbett Field, a former spring training site and home of the minor league Tucson Toros.
These new digs have suited the Wildcats just fine.
Shaking off years of postseason disappointment on the road, Arizona earned its first trip to the College World Series since 2004 by beating St. John’s 7-4 on Saturday to complete a two-game super regionals sweep in front of a rowdy crowd at Hi Corbett Field.
“I told my wife, if we can get to the right regional, we can have a chance here with this group,” said Arizona coach Andy Lopez, making his fifth trip the CWS. “And boy, we got the right regional: Tucson.”
The Wildcats had been in the wrong ones the past few years.
A three-time national champion, Arizona (43-17) had trouble getting back to Omaha, in part because of its draw. The Wildcats lost to Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., in 2008, to TCU in Fort Worth in 2010 and to Texas A&M in College Station last season.
This season, Arizona (43-17) earned the right to play at home and made the most of it.
Coming off their first Pac-12 championship since 1993 — they shared the title with UCLA — the Wildcats raced through Missouri and Louisville in the regionals by a combined score of 47-10.
Arizona was again at Hi Corbett Field for the super regional and won the first game Friday by rallying from a five-run deficit. The Wildcats jumped on St. John’s (40-23) early in Game 2 and never let up, riding the steady pitching of Konner Wade, superb defense and timing hitting to get back to Omaha for the 16th time.
Wade (9-3) allowed four runs in a six-hitter and didn’t walk or hit a batter for the first time all season. Shortstop Alex Mejia had an RBI single and several superb plays in the field, Seth Mejias-Brean had three hits and Bobby Brown added two RBIs to set off raucous celebration.
“It’s a big deal,” Brown said. “To hear Coach Lopez talking about it day after day and now we can experience it ourselves, it’s great.”
St. John’s suffered through a heartbreaking loss in the super regional opener to Arizona and fell behind early after a catcher’s interference call led to three runs in the first inning against starter Sean Hagan (8-3). The Red Storm tried to fight their way back, but could never climb all the way out of that early hole to end their deepest postseason run since 1980.
“We couldn’t keep them off us,” St. John’s coach Ed Blankmeyer said. “Everytime we were starting to chip away, they just kept us away.”
Page 2 of 5 - Arizona had a dramatic win in the series opener, fighting back from the big deficit and down a run in the 10th inning to win 7-6 on Trent Gilbert’s game-ending RBI single.
The Wildcats got out to the early lead this time, thanks to a mistake by Danny Bethea.
With two outs in the first inning, the St. John’s catcher was called for interference when his glove got in the way of Robert Refsnyder’s swing on a grounder up the middle. Instead of going off with the third out, St. John’s had to stay out and watch Mejias-Brean, Brown and Joseph Maggi each hit run-scoring singles that put Arizona up 3-0 before the Red Storm came to bat for the first time.
Mejia added a run-scoring single in the second inning after Joey Rickard worked a walk for the second straight at-bat, giving Wade a nice early cushion.
Arizona’s lanky right-hander was good early, needing just six pitches to get through the first inning. He got some help in the second, when Mejia made a sliding grab at shortstop to throw out Frank Schwindel, and Maggi dived to smother a ball down the line at first to rob Sean O’Hare.
Wade retired the first nine batters until former Mohawk Valley DiamondDawg Kyle Richardson’s leadoff single in the fourth inning, but Mejia erased him with another spectacular stop, diving up the middle and flipping the ball to second baseman Gilbert to start a double play.
St. John’s got an unearned run off Wade in the fifth inning, when Bethea lined a run-scoring single to left after Gilbert was charged with a throwing error on O’Hare’s grounder. Another error by Gilbert, this one on a squirrely grounder by Richardson, and a passed ball by Riley Moore set up an RBI groundout by Matt Wessinger in the sixth that cut Arizona’s lead to 4-2.
That would be as close as the Red Storm would get to forcing a third game.
Mejias-Brean chased Hagan with a leadoff double in the seventh inning and scored on Brown’s run-scoring double off James Lomangino. Brown followed with a run-scoring single that made it 6-2.
Hagan allowed five runs — four earned — on six hits in six innings, with seven walks.
“I probably should have put them down before that,” Hagan said of the three runs after the catcher’s interference call. “It was just one of those days when the balls were bouncing like that and the plays were bouncing like that.”
St. John’s Zach Lauricella followed Jeremy Baltz’s leadoff double with a run-scoring single in the seventh inning off Wade, but Johnny Field had a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning that pushed Arizona’s lead to 7-3.
Page 3 of 5 - Wade induced a double play that gave up a run and then finished off his fourth complete game of the season by getting O’Hare on a nubber to second, sending the Wildcats into each other’s arms and on to Omaha.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Mejias-Brean said. “Being to regionals the three years I’ve been here and to get to super regionals and then go to Omaha is going to be fun for us to actually experience it.”
SUNY-STONY BROOK 3, LOUISIANA STATE 1
BATON ROUGE, La. — Tyler Johnson has given all his spectacular right arm can take to get his little baseball program from Long Island to within one victory of its first College World Series.
Johnson threw a three-hitter and allowed an unearned run, and Stony Brook defeated LSU 3-1 on Saturday to even the best-of-three Baton Rouge super regional at one game each.
Too bad for the Seawolves (51-13) that after throwing 356 pitches in three games over the past nine days, Johnson won’t likely be able to throw at all in Sunday’s deciding game against the Tigers (47-17).
“I was thinking about it today, after I finished,” said Johnson (12-1), who did not allow a hit until the fifth inning and threw 127 pitches. “But I think you might have to bury me in (LSU’s) Alex Box field. As much as I’d like to, I don’t know if that’s going to happen (Sunday). I’d do anything for this team, but I might fall apart.”
LSU could not muster the late-inning magic of the series opener, when the Tigers hit three game-tying homers before winning a rain-postponed game in the 12th inning Saturday morning. There was, however, a brief moment when a comeback seemed to be in the air after third baseman William Carmona overthrew first base on a routine grounder with two outs in the ninth, bringing Tyler Moore to the plate as the tying run.
“I saw it come out of (Carmona’s) hand and kind of put my head down and was like ‘Oh man,”’ Johnson said. “Two seconds later I went right back to, ‘You’ve got to get the next guy out. You’ve been doing this for 8 2/3 innings. It’s your game. Go out and get this guy.”’
Moore then popped up and Johnson put his hand on his hat in what called a “please-God-catch-this-moment” as Carmona settled under the ball for the final out.
Stony Brook, which started Division I baseball in 2000, usually plays home games before a few hundred fans. Now in its first super regional, Stony Brook became the first team to win an NCAA tournament game in LSU’s 10,000-plus-seat baseball cathedral since it opened in 2009, dropping the six-time national champs to 9-1 in tournament games in the current Alex Box, built just down the road from the old one.
Page 4 of 5 - Perhaps if the Seawolves can win again Sunday against an LSU program seeking its 16th trip to Omaha, they’ll return to the New York metro area as the toast of the town.
“I’ve been hearing from my friends and family back home and they’ve been saying we’re the buzz in Long Island right now,” said Stony Brook first baseman Kevin Courtney, who was 3 for 3 with a home run. “This is a great story. It’s the best thing you could ask for.”
Stony Brook coach Matt Senk said he had not decided who his Game 3 starter would be. LSU coach Paul Mainieri said Ryan Eades (5-2) will start for the Tigers.
“This is why you come to LSU, to pitch in games like this; if you’re afraid, you came to the wrong school,” Mainieri said. “It’s not going to be easy for the other team to stop us at the end. We feel confident in ourselves, and Ryan’s got to lead the way.”
Kevin Gausman (12-2), who won Game 1 by pitching the last inning, also started Game 2 and lasted seven innings, giving up three runs on six hits and striking out six.
He was dominant in the first two innings, but lost his command as intermittent showers passed over as Stony Brook, playing Game 2 as the “home” team, batted in the bottom of the third.
Courtney doubled and advanced to third on a wild pitch, then scored on Sal Intagliata’s one-out single up the middle with the infield drawn in. Intagliata scored soon after on Carmona’s single to make it 2-0.
“I was having trouble getting that feel for my pitches,” said Gausman, who generally avoids using rosin but did so after the rain started. “It’s definitely not an excuse. I just couldn’t find it and I felt like I didn’t have that pinpoint accuracy.”
Courtney made it 3-0 with his fourth homer of the season, a towering shot to right in the bottom of the fifth.
LSU cut it to 3-1 in the top of the sixth when Raph Rhymes singled home JaCoby Jones, who’d collided with Courtney on an infield single and advanced to second when the throw got away.
Saturday’s action started at 10:05 local time, when Friday’s thrilling first game of the series was resumed in the top of the 12th.
Mainieri’s decision to put Gausman on the mound for the resumption of Game 1 played out ideally for the Tigers when he retired the side in order and LSU’s Mason Katz singled home Moore in the bottom of the inning to cap a 5-4 victory.
The fact that Katz and Moore, who led off with a single, both had key hits in the winning rally was fitting. They each had crucial home runs Friday as LSU prolonged their wild super regional opener with the Seawolves with game-tying homers in the bottom of the ninth, 10th and 11th innings.
Page 5 of 5 - Frankie Vanderka (2-3) took the loss for Stony Brook, getting only one out on Austin Nola’s sacrifice bunt that moved Moore into scoring position.
Vanderka then intentionally walked Jones, who had hit the Tigers’ dramatic tying homer in the ninth, setting up Katz’s winning liner to left-center.
By the time Game 2 had ended, though, Katz and the Tigers knew they’d been outplayed for the better part of both games.
“We need to be better in every aspect of our offense,” Katz said. “The last few days has not been good. ... We had those clutch innings late (in Game 1), but you’re not going to pop one out three innings in a row often to save yourself. We very easily could have lost that (first) game.”